Track By Track: Gilfema, “Three”

Guitarist Lionel Loueke, bassist Massimo Biolcati and drummer Ferenc Nemeth return with their first album as Gilfema in 12 years and arguably their most vibrant blend of jazz and world music. It also happens to be their third album as Gilfema, hence the titled Three, and it was released on April 3 via Sounderscore. To mark the event, we asked the trio to take us through each of its tracks to understand the inspiration behind each song and some of the work that went into the making of the album.


Têkê is the name of a traditional dance/rhythm from the north of Benin in West Africa where Lionel is from. He wrote this piece inspired by this rhythm but with his own interpretation with modern harmonies and in 13/8 instead or the usual 12/8.


“Little Wing”

This is a beautiful song by Jimi Hendrix arranged by Massimo for the trio. He chose a 9/8 time signature knowing that Lionel would come up with an interesting kalimba-like part. Ferenc contributed an interesting polyrhythmic drum part that gives the listener the sense that there are multiple grooves going at the same time. The bass is featured for the opening melody and after that Lionel steps forward building in intensity all the way to the rock-like ending.



This is the one song on the album with lyrics. Lionel sings about the idea of always trying to be the best human being you can possibly be so that life (or Karma) will reward you. You can hear the joy and positivity in the music. You can also hear the Brazilian influence that is so common in Beninese music because of the cultural exchange that took place long ago with Brazil as a side effect of the slave trade.



Ferenc wrote this piece inspired by the afrobeat music of Fela Kuti’s but interpreted through his Eastern European origin in a 5/4 time signature and in a minor key. We jammed on this piece in the studio for a while and Massimo constructed a shorter more concise version in post-production.


“13th Floor To Heaven”

The title is a wordplay on the fact that this piece by Lionel and Massimo is in 13/4 meter but more than that, it is inspired by the different and contrasting superstitions attached to the number 13 in various cultures. It’s a very airy and mysterious piece very much directly connected to the sounds of the original Gilfema debut album.



This piece started from a bass line that Massimo wrote based on Congolese Soukous music but in a 5 beat cycle instead of the usual 4, without losing the strong dance feeling of this music. Lionel wrote the guitar parts and the melody. The title comes from the term “Con brio” used in classical music to indicate a brisk dance-like tempo.


“Fleuve Congo”

Fleuve Congo is Lionel’s tribute to the Congo river which is the second-longest river in Africa after the Nile. It goes through several countries and brings life and water to many people. We tried to paint this image of life and simple joy in the music.


“Algorithm & Blues”

This is a composition by Massimo and Lionel built around a bluesy funky bass line. As we were recording, Ferenc came up with a New Orleans inspired groove to go with it that really brightened and lifted the music.


“Dear JL”

A ballad by Lionel dedicated to the memory of his late long-time manager and friend Jack Leitenberg.



Aflao is a town in Ghana which is home to this style of music called High-life. Aflao has one of the biggest and most bustling open markets in Ghana and Lionel wanted to capture its liveliness and its colors in this happy piece.


“Left Undone”

Another collaborative composition by Massimo and Lionel, this one in 7/4 meter in a contemporary jazz style which slowly builds in intensity all the way into an explosive drum solo at the end.


“Requiem for a Soul”

A piece by Ferenc dedicated to people dear to us that we have lost. Instead of dwelling on the melancholy, he chose to focus this musical tribute to remembering the beautiful things.



A composition by Massimo born as a simple chorale that he arranged for 4 arco basses played in sequence to create an orchestral string section. Massimo and Lionel then overdubbed a freely improvised solo/conversation over the strings with Ferenc coloring with his percussions.

To find out more about Gilfema and their new release, visit them online.

Like this article?  Get more when you subscribe.

Drop here!
Join Our Newsletter
Join thousands of other jazz enthusiasts and get new music, artists, album, events and more delivered to your inbox.

The Authoritative Voice in Jazz